Team To Beat
*Tiffin Calvert (7-5, Region 24 semifinalist): The Senecas posses a rich history. Calvert owns 12 playoff berths and is 17-10 with four state semifinal appearances and two state titles (1980-81). The Senecas are on another run. Calvert is looking to extend its postseason streak to four straight and with 15 starters and seven All-Midland Athletic League players back the odds are good. Calvert’s horse is senior QB/DB Tyler Long (6-2, 195) who is one of Ohio’s Top 200 prospects and getting interest from D-I schools (including Purdue and Missouri). Last season, Long ran for 1,443 yards and passed for 1,066. He accounted for 27 TDs. He has nearly 5,000 total career yards. “Tyler Long is a special athlete, and he can take over a game,” head coach Todd Fox said, “but we are blessed with many complimentary players that should make our offense explosive at times.” Calvert welcomes back three three-year starters on the OL in seniors Matt Iannantuono (5-10, 215), Cameron Felter (6-1, 235) and Marcus King (6-2, 277). Also back are junior RB Adam Recker (5-10, 195; four TDs) and senior WRs Donovan Smith (5-10, 175; 23 rec. four TDs) and Billy Burns (6-1, 185). On defense, Recker (LB, 86 tackles), Burns (DB, 32 tackles) and junior DB Drew Ritzler (four INTs) spearhead the unit. Look for several sizeable sophomores to contribute. “We began the 2013 season with 3 consecutive losses,” Fox (27-19 in four years) said. “As a program, we grew significantly during this timeframe. With a significant core of these players returning, we feel that this lesson will benefit us in 2014.”
Teams To Watch
*Arlington (9-4, Region 24 finalist): The Red Devils have made back-to-back playoff appearances and are poised to make it three straight. Senior RB Austin Rettig (6-0, 190) returns after rushing for 1,604 yards and 33 TDs on 175 carries en route to being named AP All-Ohio and first team All-BVC. Opening holes for Rettig will be a pair of first team ALL-BVC seniors in offensive linemen Bryce Hartman (5-10, 208) and Logan Grieser (6-3, 281/Marshall commit). Hartman doubles as a first team All-BVC DL. Senior DL Chase Glick is also a returning first team All-BVC DL. Senior WR Aaron Starr is a key target.
*Delphos St. John’s (9-5, Region 24 champion, state semifinalist): The Blue Jays have lost 10 games the last two years combined but those seasons have ended in the regional finals and state semis. Impressive. DSJ is looking to earn its seventh straight playoff berth and 16th overall but it must replace six first and second team All-MAC players. Expect senior DB Evan Hayes (5-10, 175, All-MAC) and senior OL/DL Wes Buettner (5-11, 190; All-MAC) to contribute heavily. Head coach Todd Schulte is 153-46 in 15 years.
*Edon (8-3, Region 24 quarterfinalist): The Bombers made the playoffs for the second time in three years and fourth time overall last season. The bad news for opponents is they return one of Ohio’s top small school signal callers in senior QB Kaden Sapp (6-1, 165). Sapp completed 134-of-228 passes for 2,758 yards and 37 TDs last season. He also ran for 13 TDs.
*Hicksville (7-5, Region 24 semifinalist): The Aces should miss the playoffs if history holds. Hicksville made Week 11 in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and missed it in 2010 and 2012. Head coach Lucas Smith (45-22 in six years) is convinced this team can change that pattern. Hicksville graduated only five seniors and returns eight starters on defense and six on offense. Replacing four-year starting RB Kalen Johns will be a big task, but the return of three starting lineman, including senior Danny Captain (6-0, 240), is a good thing. Senior DB Phil Karacson (5-10, 140) leads the defense, while senior Danny Captain anchors the OL. Both were All-GMC last season. Sophomore RB Logan Neidhardt (6-2) was HM All-GMC as a freshman. The Aces open the season with Archbold and are 0-4 against the Blue Streaks. Another playoff team – Convoy Crestview – awaits in Week 2.
*Leipsic (8-3, Region 24 quarterfinalist): The Vikings are 46-12 the last five years and have been to the playoffs each season. They’ve lost four times to Delphos St. John’s. Leipsic is ready to run again. The Vikings return senior RB Jordan Chamberlin (5-7, 160) who is a two-time first team All-BVC selection that’s produced 2,224 yards and 28 TDs the two years. Opening holes for Chamberlin will be mammoth junior OL prospect Gavin Cupp (6-6, 270). Junior WR Nate Brecht (5-8, 150) was second team All-BVC last season. Defensively, junior LB Jordan Brown and senior DL Kyle Berger headline the unit.
*McComb (8-3, Region 24 quarterfinalist): The Panthers have made the playoffs four years in a row and 12 times in 15 years. McComb must replace five first team All-BVC players, but key returners include senior QB Clay Grubb (6-3, 165), senior DL Jordan Overton (6-1, 200) and junior OL Noah DeLaCerda.
Keep An Eye On
*Buckeye Central (3-7): Two years after finishing D-VI state runner-up, the Bucks have gone 5-15.
*Columbus Grove (2-8): The Bulldogs will rely heavily on senior two-way standout Joey Warneke (LB/RB).
*Fremont St. Joseph (7-4, Region 24 quarterfinalist): The Crimson Streaks are coming off their fourth playoff berth in five years and must replace nine All-Midland Athletic League players. The good news? They return a senior standout in first team All-MAL DB Jake Yeckley (5-9, 160).
*Ottawa Hills (3-7): The Green Bears had a streak of two straight playoff appearances snapped last year.
*Pandora-Gilboa (5-5): Former McComb assistant coach Chris Myers takes over a Rockets program that’s coming off a 45-38 run in former head coach Carey Arthur’s eight-year tenure.
Also In This Region
Arcadia (3-7); Cory-Rawson (2-8); Vanlue (0-10); Holgate (2-8); Cardinal Stritch (0-10); Lima Perry (4-6); Antwerp (1-9); Edgerton (3-7); West Unity Hilltop (2-8); North Baltimore (2-8); Sycamore Mohawk (3-7); Crestline (1-9); Morral Ridgedale (1-9); Danbury Lakeside (3-7); Toledo Christian (4-6), Fostoria St. Wendelin (0-0, varsity program returns after hiatus)